My Must-Have Lunch Boxes and Accessories For Packing School Lunch

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UPDATED April 2019 to reflect the lunch boxes and accessories that I’m currently loving and using to pack lunches for my children. 

Love this minimalist approach to lunch gear. Simple lunch gear options that will last for years!

Yesterday, I received the summer email that parents either love or dread, “Welcome to the new school year!”

I’ll admit, I was a bit giddy about receiving this email. For some reason, the start of a new school year feels like a fresh start in life. A time when new schedules are formed and new habits begin. Just writing those words excites me! Let the school year begin, I’m ready!!

With the school year about to begin, today is a good time to chat about packing lunch, particularly my favorite lunch boxes and accessories.


Simplify School Lunch Packing

Over the years, I’ve developed strategies that help me simplify packing my kids’ lunch. I created the Simplified School Lunch Kit to end the school lunch overwhelm and share all my simplifying strategies and lunch plans. It’s possible to simplify and even enjoy lunch packing! 

Here’s what you’ll find in this kit:

  • ready-to-use lunch plans
  • a food prep guide
  • my stress-free approach to planning and packing lunch
  • nourishing recipes my kids love
  • 20 fully-packed lunchbox printable cards to make building a school lunch super easy

Live Simply: School Lunch Packing

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School Lunch-Packing Gear

I’ve found that having the right tools (and the right tools may be different for each person), is essential to making the daily task of packing healthy, real food lunches doable. Think of packing lunches like cooking real food. If you have a good skillet, spatula, and stove-top, the act of making a home-cooked dinner is doable, but if you take away those tools, you probably won’t have any motivation to cook at home. When you have tools that make packing real food lunches easier and approachable, most of us are more likely to actually pack a daily lunch; whether the daily lunch is for us or our kids.

School Lunch Boxes

When Piper started kindergarten, back in 2015, I was determined to find a lunchbox that would make packing daily lunches easy and enjoyable. I tried out a ton of different lunchbox options (and wasted a lot of money in the process).

After months of experimenting, I found a lunchbox that we absolutely love! A box that we’re still using today (4 years later!). Over the years, I’ve added to my lunchbox cabinet. Each additional item, from an extra lunchbox container that contains a thermos to accessories, helps me pack nourishing lunches on a regular basis.

School Lunchbox Video Chat

All My Favorites Explained

 

 

I’ve created a download for you which includes all my favorite lunch gear.

DOWNLOAD IT HERE

My Must-Have School Lunch Gear

Real Food Lunchbox Inspiration: lunch ideas

1. Lunchbox

I use two different lunchbox options, depending on what I pack…

  • PlanetBox (stainless steel box, pictured above) makes several different bento-style boxes. My favorite box is called the Rover, which is the largest lunchbox. This lunchbox isn’t cheap, but it’s well worth the expense. I’ve used our boxes for 4 years. The PlanetBox Rover holds an entire lunch, 4.5 cups of food, and comes with two stainless steel containers that fit inside the box.
  • Omielife Box (plastic, colorful box pictured below) is a leak-proof bento box with a built-in thermos container. This box is perfect for a hot lunch and a few sides. It can be purchased on Amazon.

Real Food Lunchbox Inspiration

2. Lunchbox Accessories

There are some accessories that make packing a lunch so much easier and super fun for kids.

  • mini dipper containers: These are perfect for packing sauces, guacamole, and anything small and liquid. I use these containers in both the Planetbox and Omilife Box.
  • silicone muffin cups: These are great for dividing up the lunchbox.
  • PlanetBox Big Dipper: This container works perfectly in the Rover. I use this for yogurt and other foods that need to be in a leak-proof food. It also fits in the Omielife Box if you remove the thermos part (which does come out). I also use the PlanetBox little dipper, which is a stainless alternative to the mini dipper containers mentioned above.
  • bamboo skewers: Skewers are a fun addition to the lunchbox. Add fruit to a skewer, meatballs, or french toast bites (small pieces of french toast) and fruit.
  • reusable silverware: If you’re going to pack leftovers, rice, yogurt, or anything that requires silverware, I recommend purchasing a dedicated set just for the lunchbox.

Real Food Lunchbox Inspiration

3. Lunch Bag

I also use the PlanetBox fabric lunch bags for the Rover. The colorful bags are specifically designed for use with the boxes, so everything fits perfectly. The bag that fits the Rover has pockets to hold extra baggies and small containers, and a water bottle. A flat ice pack also fits perfectly in this bag, which we’ll talk about next.

For the Omielife Box, I purchased “regular” cloth lunch bags from the Target value bins at the beginning of the school year. The box fits great in a regular lunch bag.

Food Prep Meal Plan: 5 Food to Prep Now and Enjoy All Week

4. Reusable Water Bottle 

Both kids have a stainless steel water bottle for school lunch. Last year, I switched my kids over to HydroFlask water bottles (the same brand I use). The 16-ounce water bottle is my preferred size for kiddos. I use a 32-ounce size HydroFlask bottle. A reusable water bottle is great for packing water, smoothies, or juice.

5. Reusable “Snack” Bags

Resuable bags are great to use when I send food in a thermos and need additional containers or bags for extra goodies, as we talked about above. The bags are reusable (no plastic bags are needed to pack lunch and no extra waste) and so easy to clean.

If the bags get dirty, I wash them in the sink or toss them in the washing machine. After four years of use, our bags are still in great condition.

Real Food Kids Lunchbox Gear: The Best Lunchbox

6. Ice Pack

Most of the time, except when I send a thermos, the kids enjoy their food at room temperature since their classrooms don’t have refrigeration. To keep the food safe to consume, particularly delicate foods, I usually pack a flat ice pack in the PlanetBox cloth bag.

I know there are many great options for packing real food lunches! I would love to hear about your favorite lunch-packing supplies.

Live Simply: School Lunch Packing

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12 Comments

  • I repurposed a small cookie tin I was given for Christmas to take trail mix or crackers along for my son, and I like that it’s air tight. I do also use Lunchskins for snacks for my toddler to eat when we are out, but I find they work best for sandwiches, fruits and veggies. I purchased a Sillisqueeze so I didn’t have to continue to buy the single-use packs of Applesauce for my son, he was eating two at a time and the Sillisqueeze came in a larger size so I could put enough to satisfy him in it.

    • Great ideas, Bethany! I love the cookie tin idea–I’m going to save a couple of tins during the holidays. I totally forgot about the Sillisqueeze. I tried those out when my kids were preschoolers, and they loved them. Thank you for sharing.

  • I bought the PackIt freezeable lunch bag this year for my middle schooler. I can’t wait for her to start using it. It’s supposed to keep food cold for up to 10 hours. I think it will be a great addition and not have to worry about ice packs this year. The school usually keeps the class lunch bags in a bin outside of the classroom so when it’s hot in Sacramento it doesn’t help the lunches stay cold, even with ice packs. I’m trusting that the PackIt bag will hold up to the weather.

  • Hi Kristin,

    I am interested in the shuttle box. I was just wondering whether you noticed any leaking from the shuttle box. I eat a lot of watery fruits and I just wanted to know if the container would leak if I didn’t put the fruit in the dipper container.

    Serendipity

    PS I take the bus, so the lunchbox will definitely be jostled around!

  • The video was so helpful… I’ve been considering getting a Planetbox for a while now, but hesitating because of the price. I’d love to NOT have to hand wash lunch items every day for two kids, but also don’t really want to buy multiple lunch containers that are large and expensive… how do you deal with washing at the end of each day?

    • Hey Courtney, I’m so glad the video was helpful. I was hesitant because of the price too. After 3 years of using the boxes, the price has been well worth it! They’re really easy to wash. I just run them under water every night while during the dishes and let them air dry all night. You can also put them in the dishwasher, just remove the magnets first.

  • What has been your experience with the size of the Planet Box rover? The biggest complaint I see is how much room it takes up on the table since the lid just flips open. I even read how some kids didn’t like it because it was so much bigger than other lunch boxes. I have a preschooler and kindergartener. I’m wondering if I should start out with something a little more compact and upgrade as they get a little older.

    • Hey Julienne, Great question. I haven’t had an issue with the size. I don’t think it’s much larger than most kids’ lunchboxes or how much room kids take up to get all their baggies out. A ton of the kids at school have the Rover and they all fit on the table, without any space issues. In fact, I would say it’s more space efficient since there aren’t bags and containers all over. At that age, I would start with the Rover that way you don’t have to buy another box in a couple of years. I purchased the Rovers the kids have when they were preschool age and they’re still using them. Piper is going on year 6 of using the same box.

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